Fun in Philly
January 15, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Fun in Philly? help me ...

I am going with my wife to Philadelphia for three days this weekend. Will leave our daughter off to spend time with a friend. We have a few days to ourselves. Have been to Eastern Penn prison (loved it) and the museum (ugh, Rocky's stature), and plan to go to Rodin museum. alas, I wanted to take grafitti tour but that does not open again till April.

Food not an issue but any suggestions for what we might do, explore, see, enjoy. We like art, nature, walking,etc but do not know the city .
Anyh offbeat hings you can suggest?
For which, in advance, much thanks
posted by Postroad to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Mutter Museum of old medical curiosities!
posted by moonmilk at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you have a strong constitution, you totally need to go to the Mutter Museum!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:20 AM on January 15, 2010

Last time I was in Philly I went to the Philadelphia Fabric Workshop and Museum and thought it was terrific.
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:26 AM on January 15, 2010

The Franklin Institute for non creepy museum, Monk's for delicious Belgian beer.
posted by electroboy at 8:39 AM on January 15, 2010

At the risk of derail, by "grafitti tour," are you referring to the Mural Arts Program's tours? Because it's very much not graffiti; in fact, it started out as an anti-graffiti program.

I'd also suggest The Magic Gardens on South Street for cool/weird art.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2010

I also came to suggest the Mutter Museum - if you enjoyed the prison, my sense is that you are a person who would also enjoy the Mutter.
posted by bunnycup at 8:55 AM on January 15, 2010

I highly suggest the Fourth Street Deli for a meal and Franklin Fountain for ice cream.
The Fourth Street Deli has extremely generous servings, be careful what you order if you don't want to take home a doggie bag.
Franklin Fountain has great ice cream and strange old fountain drinks. The decor is exactly what you would hope for from their website.
posted by Adridne at 8:59 AM on January 15, 2010

Shoot, it looks like the Wagner Free Institute of Science is closed over the weekend. It is a natural history museum near Temple that looks like it hasn't changed much in a hundred years (personally I loved the handwritten placard that included "is very tasty" in a scientific description of a lobster).

The Inquirer had a story about offbeat museums just last week.
posted by plastic_animals at 9:06 AM on January 15, 2010

A walk in the Wissahickon Gorge. A 1800-acre park smack in the middle of the city with hiking trails that will feel for all the world like you're in the woods in the middle of nowhere. The inn at the center apparently has a restaurant, and one local assured me that George Washington actually slept there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2010

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts has a lovely collection in a gorgeous Furness-designed building.

I also second EmpressCallipygos' recommendation of the Wissahickon Gorge, aka Valley Green. If the weather is nice, Forbidden Drive is a beautiful walk on a wide graveled path through relative wilderness. There are also lots of side trails if you want something a bit more rugged.

Have fun!
posted by chihiro at 9:43 AM on January 15, 2010

Thanks for the question. This is providing me the opportunity to wax nostalgic about my happy times in Philadelphia. [Miss you, Philly MeFites!!!]

Not to continue on the "graffiti tour" derail, but if you ARE talking about the murals, then the GUIDED tours may not be running currently, but several walking and driving tours are all available that you can take yourself on. And while it might be nice to have the history of murals as told by a docent, it's hardly necessary. There are so many beautiful murals - thousands, in fact. So please do check out the Mural Arts Program.

You are there are a sort of quiet time of year, so many of my suggestions for outdoorsy/nature-y things are really not probably great for this weekend.


- Rittenhouse Square, especially on days when there is a farmer's market or twice annually when they have the art shows in the park. (April and September, I believe). The park is full of probably 80 different artists, each with their own displays and original artwork for sale. I spent many afternoons just wandering around and jotting down names of artists that I wanted to purchase things from when I'm older and richer and have graduated from college dorm room posters. It's a beautiful space, in my opinion. And I love it in any season. But winter might be my favorite - I tend to prefer the starkness of winter. Last year at this time, my office was on Rittenhouse Sq. and I got a cup of coffee from La Colombe and sat in the park while waiting for a friend. The Curtis Institute - one of the nations best music schools - is across the square, and a trumpeter was practicing out in the cold. The sky was grey, and the trees were bare, and as I held that cup of coffee, I immediately felt as though I was a character in a detective novel.

- Kelly Drive. It sounds a little basic, but going for a nice stroll along Kelly Drive is a surprisingly fun way to spend some time outdoors in Philadelphia. You'll share the sidewalk with bikers, skaters, and joggers - so be aware! But you'll get a nice closeup view of Boathouse Row (from the backside), which is one of Philadelphia's most iconic features.

- Elfreth's Alley/Society Hill. These aren't so much destinations as they are just sort of fascinating little places in Philly. Elfreth's Alley bills itself as the first neighborhood in America. I'm sure George Washington slept there too. (In fact, it might be a fun game to try to find a place where George Washington DIDN'T sleep in towns and cities between D.C. and Boston...but I digress...) Society Hill are beautiful, well-manicured homes in the older part of the city. You can wander down streets of immaculate brick rowhomes and see what they look like. (I suggest blocks in the vicinity of 3rd and Pine to about 2/3rd and Spruce.)


- The Rosenbach Museum. It's a little known repository for some of the most amazing treasures I've ever seen close up. Think of it this way: The Rosenbach is to the Philadelphia Museum of Art what the Frick Collection is to the Met in New York. Most people pass it up, without realizing that it has a beautiful library (for anyone who gets excited about rare books, first editions and manuscripts: they have all of James Joyce's manuscripts as well as the manuscript for Bram Stoker's Dracula, and serve as a curatorial custodian for all of Maurice Sendak's work). The family also has a fascinating collection of items from antiquity.

- The Franklin Institute. I'm a little bit lukewarm on this one, but they have a planetarium and that just makes the space cadet in me get a little weak in the knees. They also have one of those domed IMAX screens, in case you're interested in getting lost in something like Avatar. (Though, I don't know what's playing now - that's a safe bet.)

- The Constitution Center. Feeling particularly American? Feeling particularly UNAmerican? Either way, the Constitution Center can probably help you out.

- City Hall. If you haven't been, I hear the tour is top notch. You get to go up in the clock tower. And that alone is probably worth the cost of admission. Go say hi to Billy Penn!

Indoor/Outdoor Hybrid:

- South Street. You can wander around South Street and stop into kitschy shops if you're feeling like you might want to pick up a new guitar, or a Vespa, or a tattoo, or a deck of tarot cards. We're not in "water ice" season [please don't call it Italian Ice, or we'll have to ask you to leave], but you are sure to be able to find a nice pretzel there as well as a giant slice of pizza at DiLorenzo's in about the 400 block of South. The slices come plain, and don't ask for anything special or weird cause they'll just yell at you. But the pizza is divine and the slices are as big as your head. (The pizzas are so large that they have to be put into TWO pizza boxes when you order a whole pie.)

- Old City. Old City is generally considered to run from Front to about Independence Hall, and it is the area on either side of Market Street. Bistros, shops [Foster's is the best kitchen porn store I have ever seen], and lovely architecture make this a fun place to spend a little time wandering around. You can stop by Ben Franklin's grave over in this part of town. People tend to throw pennies at him, and I suppose it's supposed to be in homage to his "penny saved/penny earned" adage, but I just can't help but think that it's sort of scoffing at the crux of that koan... But whatever!

- Germantown/Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy. A short train ride away is a really quaint little area with cute shops, lovely colonial architecture, and good food. If you're in the "wander & windowshop" mood, then this would be a lovely place to do it. Bonus: it can be rolled into a trip to Valley Green that everyone suggests if the weather is nice and you're feeling like heading out to see a bit of the far end of Fairmount Park.

- The Zoo. Of course, this is all based on tastes, and I tend to live by the theory that a zoo isn't worth visiting unless it's got some really amazing bit of flora/fauna to see that I wouldn't otherwise be able to see. I'm also one of those dumb saps that feels like zoos are a little unethical. But usually I can overcome that if the monkeys are cute enough or if the panda has a ridiculous enough name.

And finally: a great resource for finding random things to do in Philadelphia is "Hidden City." Check it out! Lots of buried treasure there!
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

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